Environmental Questions Posed
Residents, environmentalists, and activists gathered at Hilltop Community Center, located on Ohio Route 536, on Aug. 7 to discuss the effects of the June 28 Eisenbarth well pad fire on the local community.
Caitlin Johnson of The Ohio Organizing Collaborate was the spokesperson for the meeting. “This is an issue that affects many counties,” she noted. “We want to have a discussion.”
Johnson introduced several individuals from different organizations, including: Attorney Emily Collins, Fair Shake Legal Services; Donna Carver, Executive Director of Buckeye Forest Council; Attorney Nathan Johnson, Ohio Environmental Council; Brian Kunkemoeller, The Sierra Club; Teresa Mills, Center for Health and Environmental Justice; Mary Ellen Cassidy, FracTracker.
Kelly Stewart, a resident of Monroe County, first spoke to those in attendance of her experiences the day the fire happened.
She estimates it was about 10 a.m., an hour after the fire started, that EMS came from Woodsfield and told them they had to leave. “That’s an hour’s worth of exposure to who knows what,” asserted Stewart.
The morning after the fire she was late for work because she stopped at the well site and talked to two people from the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health. “They were doing testing on air quality around the site, and they had been up for 24 hours at that point. They rushed in and started testing,” she said. Stewart told the workers she wanted Material Safety Data Sheets and testing results.
“I want all this stuff in my hands because I want to see what my family was exposed to and I want to know what is in the ground, air, and water,” said Stewart.
She then saw another person on the site, an employee of Halliburton, a fracking contractor for Statoil. Stewart also told him she wanted safety information from the site.
“I spoke to 10 people before I got results last week, and I spoke to this guy, and I was talking to him and saying that I understand they have jobs to do, but my job is to protect my family. That’s my first and foremost thing. I have a seven year old. I’m not that far from the site, and I want to know what we were exposed to, so he finally did send me the sheets of what he could send.”
She noted she saw the EPA report that was given to Columbus.” Stewart referenced the mention of Cesium-137 in the EPA report.
Copies of two EPA reports were available at the community meeting on Aug. 7. The first EPA report, which contains the subject “POLREP #1, Initial POLREP, Statoil Eisenbarth Well Response . . .” states that on June 28 the USEPA observed uncontrolled runoff of “liquids from the Eisenbarth Well Pad from the south and west sides of the site. Numerous fires were observed across the well pad and a well head was observed releasing flowback water . . . At least 16 different products were present on the well pad and most were lost in the fire. The chemicals present in the aforementioned products included but is not limited to the following: hydrotreated light petroleum distillates, terpenes, terpenoids, isoproponal, ethylene glycol, paraffinic solvents, sodium persulfate, tributyl tetradecyl phosphonium chloride and proprietary components among others. In addition, three Cesium-137 radiological sources were present on the pad as part of the densometers and shaped charges, primer cord and detonators were present for use in the perforating guns.” The June 29 entry in the EPA report states that construction of a berm near the pad was begun to contain spilled liquids and future runoff from the well pad.
Stewart explained that she did not know if many knew what Cesium-137 was, but “it has a half life of 33 years . . . Thirty-three years of that.”
“I don’t know where it was at the site. I don’t know what happened, and they don’t think it was in the fire . . .” Stewart said she was worried the Cesium-137 could interact with other molecules and cause cancer.
“If you aren’t aware of what (Cesium-137) is, look up Chernobyl. That’s what killed people in Chernobyl. That’s why people can’t go back to that town. It is still radioactive. Not only did people die from it. Cows died from it. Livestock died from it, and people have cancer and leukemia, so when you are thinking of this, it’s scary.
“This to me is very important that we do find out. Because due to the Halliburton-Cheney Loophole, they don’t have to tell you the chemicals that they put in your drinking water. I find this unacceptable.”
The loophole to which Stewart refers is the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that exempts hydraulic fracturing from federal oversight per the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. However, if the process uses diesel fuel, federal permits are required. There are debates about whether or not any facturing fluid has the opportunity to enter water sources because of pipes and cement casings and the depth to which the horizontal fracturing is taking place-below the water table.
Stewart continued, “We should have other resources, and we shouldn’t have to rely on the Middle East for our fuel. It’s just that I think they need to have better laws and stiffer laws.”
Mills then gave a brief presentation that included ground photos of the well site. Mills stated that as of the time of the fire, the chemicals used for fracking had yet to have been reported to the Ohio Division of Natural Resources. Furthermore, Mills stated that Statoil requested variances in regards to distance between well bores and well heads. She said that state law requires the distance between well heads to be 100 feet. Statoil requested a variance of 16 feet, which they received. Mills further stated that the ODNR was last on site in April. “In the most dangerous points (of operation), you would certainly think they would be on site,” she stated.
“Another thing we don’t know,” she added, “is were they in the process of fracking the first well or the last well . . . if the third, there is the potential for three times as many chemicals.”
There was also discussion on how the press handled the Eisenbarth well situation. Residents showed concern that they weren’t being kept informed by the press concerning the situation.
“The press didn’t help because the information was shutdown,” Mills stated. “But yet, the last report from Statoil was that you’d think they were all over you guys, telling you everything, but if it were me, I would certainly let your elected officials know how you feel about the lack of communications on this, because we, as state organizations, are going to go after new legislation, and that’s one of the things we are going to be talking about, the chemical right-to-know and community right-to-know. You have the right to know, by law, what was on there. Kelly (Stewart), you should not have had to wait to get the Material Safety Data Sheets.”
It was mentioned that the sheets were actually housed in a trailer on the well site. “They should’ve been somewhere else,” one person noted. “They should’ve been with the local fire department,” Mills responded. “The local fire department should have known what chemicals would be on that site 30 days ahead of time so they would know how to fight a fire like that.”
During her presentation, Mills also referenced a drain that was spotted on the western edge of the pad. According to the second EPA report released, containing the subject “POLREP #2, Progress, Statoil Eisenbarth Well Response,” dye testing took place on the “mystery drain on the western edge of the pad” on July 16. The EPA report states that “fire runoff water was observed entering this drain during the emergency response. It was unknown where the drain was connected and where the runoff water was going. The mystery drain was confirmed to be connected to the sump in the northwest corner of the pad. The sump is currently plugged and pad drainage is being pumped to a frac tank on the pad.”
Mills again referenced the “POLREP #1” EPA report, which stated that on June 29 there was concern over the ability to analyze for and detect the primary component of BE-9 (tributyl tetradecyl phosphonium chloride – TTPC) for which there is no approved standard method to detect. Mills expressed concern as to why a chemical would be used for which there is no test.
“November is election season,” Nathan Johnson noted. “Now is a really good time for you all to start calling, and e-mailing, and raising a fuss about this, because now they care more.”
Attorney Nathan Johnson from the Ohio Environmental gave a presentation titled “Ohio Law in the Shale Fields: Not Ready to Respond.”
Talking about three laws, he said, they are the kinds of things citizens can pressure or maybe reach out and contact local elected official, state officials and make sure they know that these sort of reforms are important and these are common-sense things.
Nathan Johnson stated that the Eisenbarth well pad fire illustrates the need for better chemical disclosure, setbacks, and first response funding and training. Nathan Johnson stated that setbacks are basically laws that say how far from a home, from a property line, or from a running stream-like body of water a well can be. Right now, wells have to be 100 feet away from a house and 50 feet away from a stream or lake. Nathan Johnson stated that this is in regards to an actual well. However, the well site can be only yards away from a house.
“The last thing, first responder funding and training . . . we’ve heard the severance tax is very low right now, but I think we just need to let the legislature know that the funding that comes from the severance tax needs to go back to fire fighters, to the Ohio EPA that responds to these problems.”
In regards to chemical disclosure, Nathan Johnson cited Chapter 1509:10 of Ohio Revised Code, which states, “Any person drilling within the state shall, within 60 days after the completion of drilling operations. . . file with the division of oil and gas resources management all wireline electric logs and an accurate well completion record on a form that is prescribed the chief of the division of oil and gas resources management that designates . . . ” This law states that the trade name and the total amount of “all products, fluids, and substances, and the supplier of each product, fluid, or substance, not include cement . . .” shall be named, except for those chemicals that are considered to be “trade secret.” According to Nathan Johnson, only diagnosing/treating physicians and the Ohio Division of Natural Resources may require disclosure of proprietary fracking chemicals.
“Unfortunately we have really weak rules in Ohio,” he stated. “The ODNR is not considered first responders, so why would you give this information to an agency that is not considered first response? ODNR has no authority, no ability to fight a chemical fire. They can’t use the information, yet they can’t share it with anyone,” he noted.
In regards to the fish kill that occurred shortly after the Eisenbarth fire, the EPA report, in a summary dated June 30, stated that the ODNR Division of Wildlife “completed their in-stream assessment of the fish kill and reported an estimated 70,000 dead fish from an approximately five-mile stretch extending from the unnamed tributary just west of the Eisenbarth Well Pad to Opossum Creek just before its confluence with the Ohio River.” The report stated that no fish kill were reported on the Ohio River.
On July 5, the report states that fish collection was completed, with a total of 11,116 dead fish being collected, which included 20 different species. Furthermore, 3,519 crustaceans, seven frogs, and 20 salamanders were collected.